Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Richard Buckner w/ Six Parts Seven @ Schubas

Already attending a friend’s going-away party in the upstairs room of Schubas, we were delighted to find that Richard Buckner was playing this tour with a complete band. As you may recall from last time, he played well, but it was merely he and Doug Gillard sitting on chairs with looped interludes between songs. In the interest of proper party-abandonment decorum, we unfortunately missed most of Six Parts Seven. We caught their last two songs, but that was it. I can tell you that four-fifths of the band was wearing winter hats, and they sounded rather together, but extremely low-key for a Friday night. They also had twenty minutes of additional stagetime that they passed on using. So we had thirty-five minutes of wait time before Buckner took the stage.

The only item of note during the interim was that all the couples seemed extremely cuddly. It was very surreal. Turns out it was just cold in there, but I hadn’t seen anything like it at a 21 and over show before.

As we were waiting, the lack of drum kit on stage grew conspicuous. I became concerned. Right on time, Buckner took the stage by himself, tuned his five guitars and went to work alone. This show was way more packed than the last one – either due to the promise of a live band, or because it was on a Friday. He appeared grimier than usual, sporting a full beard and longer hair. It was definitely a less-spirited performance than in the fall, though much of the crowd seemed devoted nonetheless. My friend Brad asked the doorman, “What’s up with this full band stuff?” He was informed that Buckner fired his band the night before. So, I guess we had bad timing. I still highly recommend checking out his new album, Meadow. It’s his best work in my opinion, and has a couple of very compelling songs. But since I was anticipating Buckner with a full band, this performance was a disappointment. I also hope he’s OK. He didn’t look so good up there.

Monday, February 26, 2007

OWR: Chinatown


100: Wistful

First Blush: The 79th Academy Awards

Coming to you from La Casa de Brad here in beautiful Bucktown. Brad has prepared a nice spread he procured from Trader Joe’s and I am supplying the Red Hook ESB. Let’s get on with it!

7:00 We start off with CGI Penguins yammering in annoying penguin voices. Now they’re combined with CGI cars. Brad says “Oh Geez.” Followed by “This is horrible.” And now we learn that we are 27 minutes and 43 seconds away from the beginning of the Oscars. What the crap? Man, this is flagrant false advertising. See you then.

7:30 We actually start off with a series of outtakes. “You see a head roll down the stairs. Well, that was a head.” Eddie Murphy gets the best laugh simply by doing nothing. Brad says, “Man this is going on for a really long time.” There are a lot of unibrows in this segment. We can only hope that this trend will continue into the ceremony itself.

7:35 All the nominees are told to stand and clap for one another. “These men and women represent the best of the best.” You two characters are going to Mirarmar. Brad: “no one in the balcony is standing up.”

7:36 Ellen comes out on stage. No, not like that, grow up people. Looks like she plucked her unibrow, so we were obviously misled by that intro. George Costanza would love this outfit – it’s all velvet.

7:39 “To you nominees, everything is on the line for you. It’s a huge, huge night for you.” Ellen’s doing her schtick and rolling with it. It’s not bad. “It’s not that we don’t have time for long speeches, it’s that we don’t have time for boring speeches.” Brad: “Did Jack have chemo?”

7:45 First award! And it’s Art Direction. I thought this was one of those that they did the day before?

7:47 Maggie Gyllenhall got to hang out with the nerds yesterday. We’re getting this out of the way early. As she’s talking, they’re playing applause from the night before. It’s really annoying and confusing. “It was a wild night,” says Maggie. Brad: “Was that supposed to be funny?”

7:49 A bunch of people roll in from the sides of the stage to form an Oscar Shadow. They totally ripped off that intro from the Cosby Show.

7:53 Will Ferrell is here to amuse us. Looks his hair is really big! He’s amusing! Here’s Jack Black! He’s merely amusing as well. I’m so utterly amused. John C Reilly. He’s amusing and talented! He’s actually vastly outperforming the other two guys. This was all just a lead-in to the award for best makeup. Apparently this is Will Ferrell’s job every year now. Lucky us! At least we get him out of the way early. Look, it’s Click! I told you it was nominated. Pan’s Labyrinth wins again! Two for two! They are going to clean up tonight. Montse Ribé is the best-looking makeup director I’ve ever seen. Brad: “The funniest thing about that sequence was Will Ferrell’s hair.” I don’t think he meant that as a compliment.

8:00 Will Smith’s kid raced out in front of Abigail Breslin. Way to be chivalrous. This is best animated short. ‘Cause they’re kids! And they’re not tall! Get it? The Danish Poet wins! This will definitely be the winner who has the farthest walk to the stage tonight. Torill Kove just made a Tom Hanks joke/reference, but no one got it (including me). They’re also going to present the Best Short Film, live action. Binta Y La Gran Idea is the highest rated on the IMDB. Let’s see what happens: Breslin is totally carrying this team and had to take over at the last second to make the announcement. Apparently the Smith kids are not able to read. Maybe they’re home schooled. West Bank Story directed by Ari Sandel! His acceptance speech makes it clear that this dude has watched some Sportscenter in his day: “Short film relies on perseverance, and sticktoitiveness, and hustle.”

8:11 The Sound Effects Choir: Where’s Michael Winslow??? Well that showed a certain talent. Not necessarily a worthwhile one.

8:17 OK, I can see why my brother is so enamored with Jessica Biel. She looks awfully good here. Brad thinks that Dreamgirls will win Best Sound Mixing. And Dreamgirls it is! One of these guys’ family has four generations of sound mixers. That doesn’t seem possible.

8:21 Rachel Weisz is here to finally present a “real” award, Best Supporting Actor. Murphy is the favorite, but I think Arkin wins. Brad wants me to be right, but he thinks it’s Eddie Murphy, too. Second City’s very own Alan Arkin it is! I’m sensing a big night for the Sunshiners. This is likely a major career boost for him. Brad astutely points out that his other role this year was The Santa Clause 3 with Judge Rienhold. Aww, old guys getting choked up with emotion is always a crowd-pleaser. Way to go Ark!

8:25 “Goodmamas, written by Ellen DeGeneres.” I’m liking Ellen. She’s pulling this off. Now we have more from the dance troupe. Maybe there’s a chance that we won’t have to hear the damn songs this year! Oh no, the announcer just informed me that James Taylor, Randy Newman and Melissa Ethridge are coming up. So much for wishful thinking.

8:29 “ABC’s Thursday is made for women and their boyfriends. Only on ABC.” Brad: “In ten years, it’ll just be the live feed from Lifetime.”

8:30 James Taylor and Randy Newman with a GIGANTIC Cars logo above them. Which studio produced that movie again? And which network is this on? Buy it on DVD today. Brad: “This sounds like James Taylor.” After I tell him that it is James Taylor, he says, “It looks like him, too.”

8:33 Melissa Ethridge is here. She’s wearing a silk coat of some kind. She looks more like a bird than ever, and is irritating as usual. Brad: “Is she out there just for Ellen DeGeneres’ amusement?” I say she could never get Ellen DeGeneres. You sleep with David Crosby, you’re going to fall off a lot of people’s lists.

8:35 Well, at least they kept the Melissa to a minimum. It’s your favorite comedy team, Decaprio and Gore. They’re talking about global warming, and just to drive home the message, Leo tanned excessively for his appearance.

8:42 Cameron Diaz looks good. Brad disagrees and tells us that she will be costarring with Justin Timberlake in Shrek The Third. That should lead to a breakup, no? Monster House is supposed to be the best of these. I guess Cars will win, and Brad says Happy Feet. Brad’s right. Robin Williams wins again! Brad asks of George Miller, “Is he wearing a scarf?” I have no idea what you call that. It might be an ascot. I wish I had a photo I could show you, but I don’t. Just trust me that it was a ridiculous thing to wear in front of any living persons.

8:46 Ben Affleck is playing this intro so low-key, you’d think he was acting in a movie. He’s utterly unenthused. That leads to a well-done montage about writers – I was fearing a “Something’s Gotta Give” shot, and unfortunately we got one. Dangit.

8:50 Best Adapted Screenplay. Brad thinks Borat will win – I certainly hope so, but I think it has way too much improv to get it. I’m guessing that Departed wins (I think it’ll be a big night for Departed as well). Departed wins. Jack is looking sleek as hell. Accepting for William Monahan is Donal Logue. Oh wait, this guy’s way fatter than Donal Logue. Monahan is the first solo winner to be chased off by the orchestra.

8:56 Wes Anderson has officially made the big time. He’s on the same level as Ellen, Coach K, and probably some other pompous famous folks. Congrats, Wes!

8:59 Ellen has switched to an Elvisy white jumpsuit, then introduces Emily Blunt and Anne Hathaway. They’re quite the attractive pair. They’re doing best costume design. Brad says The Queen. I’m going with Marie Antoinette. But neither of us cares very much. Marie Antoinette it is. Milena Canonero gingerly takes the stage, looking a bit like a current day Peter O’Toole. I’m mean and I’m sorry – that wasn’t nice. Whoah, she’s married to Marshall Bell who we will see frequently in upcoming Schwarzenegger Sundays (Total Recall, Twins). Who knew? I wonder if Kuato is wearing a tux tonight.

9:12 Gwyneth Paltrow, sounding a little V.I. Warshawski, is here to announce Cinematography. Brad and I both guess Pan’s Labyrinth, even though, at least in the theater where I saw it, it was way too dark in most scenes. It ended up looking murky. And the Oscar goes to, Pan’s Labyrinth. That’s three for the goat-man maze!

9:23 Is Catherine Denueve bleeding? Her brooch is supposed to look like it. An excellent montage of all the foreign film winners of the past follows their introduction.

9:29 Cate Blanchette looking stunning as always with Clive Owen to give best foreign film. Clearly Pan’s Labyrinth is going to win. But no, it’s Lives of Others with a stunning upset. This is the upset of the night. The director grabs Guillermo Del Toro out of his seat for a hug. He’s clearly shocked. It’s getting an 8.4 on the IMDB, so it looks like Oscar nailed this one. Yes, I know Pan’s Labyrinth has an 8.5, but I gave it a 70, so there.

9:33 Best Supporting actress presented by George Clooney (winner of last year’s best supporting actor). Jennifer Hudson’s supposed to be the favorite, but I think Abigail Breslin wins. Brad thinks it’s going to be Adriana Barrazza, but he admits that’s wishful thinking. Jennifer Hudson wins! “Look what God can do!” She thanks her late grandmother. “Definitely have to thank God, I guess, again.” “Jennifer Holiday, too!” It’s like a summary of all the recent African American winners. I’m surprised she didn’t thank Vivica Fox, just for completeness.

9:42 Eva Green and Gael Garcia Bernal for best documentary, short subject. Neither of us have a clue here, but that recycling movie seems like it has a lot good trash in it. I’m going with that, Brad says “Two Hands”. And we’re both wrong. It’s The Blood of Yingzhou District. Jerrry Seinfield strides out to his show’s theme music. He’s here to present best doc feature. He does some observational humor about picking up garbage in the movies. Brad: “Is he auditioning for the ’08 Oscars?” We both assume Inconvenient Truth is going to win. I know Jesus Camp doesn’t stand a chance. Inconvenient Truth wins. Davis Guggenheim accepts the Oscar and also has the distinction of being the wealthiest winner. Well, him or Al Gore. Speaking of whom, is he wearing lipstick? Maybe he gave Tipper a smooch before going up onstage. I sure hope not. I’d prefer to think he’s just wearing lipstick.

9:49 Clint Eastwood is here to present the lifetime achievement award to Ennio Morricone. It will be hard to pull this off – a montage of music, but if there was ever a composer who deserves this honor, it’s Morricone. And Eastwood’s the right person to present it. Unfortunately, Celine Dion is here to sing one of his tunes. She’s looking more mannish than ever. Morricone appears thoroughly bored. Celine really can’t sing. Not to get off on a rant, but she has no understanding of what music is supposed to be about. I know she has pipes or whatever, but you’d think she’d learn about passion somewhere. I mean, I know she has passion in her. She’s proven it before. But somehow her singing style is robotic. It’s either wail or nothing with her.

9:59 Morricone takes the mic and his Oscar. He’s speaking Italian and getting weepy. Where are the subtitles? They show his wife with a random seat-filler next to her. Need a tighter shot, boys. Clint will translate for us. Well, at least a handful of the words Morricone said. Brad: “Is he really translating?” “I don’t think so.” This is like that Kevin Nealon sketch on SNL.

10:06 Following Morricone, it’s best original score. Um, the Good German? Brad goes with The Queen. It’s Babel. I figured they wouldn’t vote this way because it didn’t have the orchestration, but I think it’s much deserved. Gustavo Santaolalla just thanked thirty-six people without taking a breath. Impressive.

10:12 Best original screenplay. I think it’s Babel. Brad says The Queen. And it’s Little Miss Sunshine. Brad: “Little Miss Sunshine won?!? I was gonna pick them! Damn.” I feel the same way. It’s good when the guy getting the most distinctive award for writing uses the word “funnest” in his acceptance speech. There’s hope for all of us.

10:20 J-Lo is here to introduce a Dreamgirls “songtage”. I gotta say, Beyonce is blowing Hudson off the stage right now, even if Hudson’s breasts are trying their best to fight back. Brad sees a Vegas future for Jennifer Hudson. OK, so clearly one of these songs is going to win an Oscar, right?

10:28 Ellen just said that both Travolta and Queen Latifa have been nominated for acting Oscars before. I guess Oscar did something right if they didn’t win… Travolta just dropped the worst joke of the evening, referring to himself as a full-figured woman who can sing. Brad and I both assume that Dreamgirls will pick one this one up with one of their songs. But no. Ladies and gentlemen Melissa Ethridge, Oscar Winner. Somebody kill me now. Worst. Award. Ever. Please just eliminate the song category now. We don’t have musicals anymore, and even when we do, they get three songs nominated and split the votes amongst them.

10:32 During another extended commercial break, Brad and I are warming up for the death montage. We expect to see James Brown as reverend Cleophus James. Robert Altman. We think Chris Penn was last year, but we can’t remember. We’re pretty sure that Burgess Meredith died, like, ten years ago. Hopefully Robert Downey Jr. hasn’t keeled over since he presented the best sound award or whatever it was.

10:35 Will Smith here to introduce Michael Mann’s look at America through its movies. Well, that was kind of meh.

10:40 Kate Winslet presents Film Editing. Brad and I both think it’s United 93, if only because the editing was so obvious in the movie (and well done). It was one of those few movies where you noticed the editing, but not because it was problematic. It’s The Departed. This is all pointing towards a Best Director and Best Picture victory. Thelma Schoonmaker wins her third award (Raging Bull, The Aviator).

10:45 A somewhat emotional Jodie Foster presents the death montage. Glenn Ford (never seen one of his). Bruno Kirby – and they show a Spinal Tap shot! Don Knotts – of course! RIP, Mr. Furley. Darren McGavin of Raw Deal fame. Joe Barbera gets a big ovation. Tamara Dobson gets a delayed one only when they showed the poster of Cleopatra Jones. Philippe Noriet seemed near death in Cinema Paradiso – had no idea he died this year. Peter Boyle only gets a small spattering. Jack Palance – I thought that was like four years ago. Mako of Conan the Barbarian – hey, that’s my favorite Mako movie, whatcha gonna do? Jack Warden – again, thought it had been four years. Robert Altman is saved for last. No James Brown! Brad and I are displeased. He’s only really acted in four movies, and one of them was Doctor Detroit. However, his music has been used in over 100 films and TV shows, and he had such memorable scenes in The Blues Brothers and Rocky IV. That’s an omission.

10:52 Phillip Seymour Hoffman, looking disheveled is ready for Best Actress. Brad and I both have our money on Helen Mirren. This is probably the biggest slam-dunk of the night, no? Brad: “I’ll take The Queen. So far she’s failed me every time tonight.” Noted. As long as Meryl Streep doesn’t win I won’t be too upset. She’s almost as irritating as Melissa Ethridge. Helen Mirren wins! She gives the most gracious speech of the night, acknowledging her competitors, then her collaborators, and then Queen Elizabeth herself.

10:56 Chris Connelly is certainly coming off as one of the biggest losers in history. I’m not sure what kind of audience he’s shooting for. “The Nominees are ready. The presenters read. Even the Oscars are ready. Are you ready?” We’ve been sitting here all night, Chris. I think we’re ready. Actually, we might need to see a few more credit card commercials before I’m going to be really ready.

11:00 I ask Brad about a mini Mounds bar in a candy dish on his coffee table. “How old is this?” “It’s not that old.” “Are you sure, it looks a little old.” “I don’t know how old it is.” I eat it anyway. It wasn't new, but I don't think I'll get sick.

11:01 Reese Witherspoon is leaning forward as she talks, and Brad mentions that her face looks a little weird. I have to say I agree. Whitaker is the clear favorite. Gosling is the only one of these performances I’ve seen, and it was yesterday – he was great, by the way. I thought Decaprio deserved a nomination for The Departed. I’m rooting for Peter O’Toole. That would at least be interesting. I’m rooting against Will Smith just because (imagine how much he’ll be shoved down our throats if he wins). Forest Whitaker wins. And I thought he just flew in for games! A very emotional speech from Forest. I’m sure he thought that this would never happen to him despite all of his quality work over his career.

11:07 Best Director – It’s looking like Scorsese’s year. “For the Queen, Stephen Fears” says George Lucas. Close enough. Martin Scorsese wins, and he throws his hands up in the air with a look that says, “well, it’s about time”, but not in a condescending way. Standing O for Marty who makes the best films. He gives a rapid-fire acceptance speech.

11:11 All we have left is Best Picture. It seems clear that Departed will win. Brad says that United 93 was the best movie of the year. I’d have to go with Borat. Neither are nominated in this category (nor did they win in the categories in which they were nominated). We both loved The Departed, though.

11:13 Diane Keaton needs to be kept behind closed doors at this point. She’s a mess. Don’t let her do anymore movies, don’t let her go out in public. They have Jack up there with her, just in case she breaks down again. Brad: “Why’s she touching her breasts?” The Departed it is. Keaton lets out a howl: “OOooooooowwwhhh!” Jack just hangs out on stage.

11:16 Ellen says that it’s truly been a pleasure to be our host and wishes us good night. Good show, Ellen. We’ll see you next year. You’ve repaired much of the damage to the lesbian community that Whoopi inflicted. All in all, it was a very well-done awards show. They finally took some steps to shorten the song performances which had always been the biggest albatross. I’ve long thought that the Oscars should make their focus the movies rather than onstage performances of music and that sort of thing. They had some nice montages and kept the thing moving in generally. And I’m not even upset with the winners! Way to go, Academy!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

OWR: Half Nelson


74: Lonesome

Friday, February 23, 2007

OWR: Babel


64: Rambled

Thursday, February 22, 2007

OWR: Click


62: Cute
(Am I cheating? Heck no! This is an Oscar-nominated movie! It's nominated for best makeup!)

Arcade Fire Addicts Anonymous

Hi, my name is Reed, and I’m addicted to the Arcade Fire. It’s been 43 hours since I last played Funeral in its entirety. No, please don’t applaud. I listened to Power Out before work this morning. It’s OK, though. I’m not ashamed anymore. I’m just going to have to live with listening to the Arcade Fire for the rest of my life. I can't pinpoint how I got hooked. I’m pretty sure that the first time I tried it, nothing much happened to me. I was basically unaffected. But then, people kept playing it when I was around. By about the fifth time, I realized I had to get my own copy.

I can’t really remember the steps that happened next. I just know that I kept spinning Funeral more and more often until one fateful day when I played it on repeat and decided I couldn’t leave my room for any reason. I was lucky to make it out of there. I think my friend Kyle lured me out with the promise that he’d let me hear their first EP if I’d go outside and take one deep breath of fresh air.

Then there was that time I was playing my I-pod on shuffle, and right as I disembarked from a plane, Wake Up came on. I turned it up, and as I strode through the terminal, I felt eleven feet tall. I was floating past everyone. Granted, I was finally free of a cramped seat next to an obese man who fell asleep on me and snored for an hour, but this was a truly serendipitous shuffle event. I can not walk through an airport after a flight without putting on Wake Up now. I highly recommend it. Just know it’s a new level of addiction. I can never go back.

However, there’s another level of demand I have heretofore merely tasted - seeing the band live. My lone experience with this was at Lollapalooza ’05, on a day where the temperature peaked at 108. The band surpassed my wildest expectations. They were beating each other over the head, tackling one another and diving into the audience. The entire crowd was blown away. You can ask anyone who was there. I had another opportunity to score some live Arcade Fire when they returned to Chicago to play the Riviera. Alas, I was unable to hook myself up. I tried hitting up the furthest reaches of craigslist and stubhub, but all I got was offers for Ween and Cibo Matto. I long to enhance my devotion to this band and take things to another level, given the proper connections. I just fear what that will mean for the rest of my life.

Thank goodness I have another fix coming on March 6th in the form of Neon Bible. And if they don’t have a copy for me at the store, I might throw a fit that will get me arrested. I’m getting the shakes just thinking about it. Quick, I-pod, play me some Funeral. Ahhhh, that’s the stuff…

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Single Blue Weblog Seeks Tagline

I don't have a standard, "here's what's up" kind of post title that most bloggers have. That's good because so far, I haven't had to write many of those. But I think it's high time that I came up with something. So here are the leading candidates:

  • Unyielding Enlightening
  • Bloggin' in the Boneyard
  • Subliminal Dispatchism
  • The Warmth of your Blog

So if you like any of those, please chime in. If you have other suggestions, chime in as well.

Unyielding Enlightening gets published: You may be aware that the Oscars are Sunday on ABC. Tune in to see frequent American Express commercials featuring Ellen DeGeneres and a bunch of animals. I'm not sure what to expect from Ellen's performance, but I think it's safe to say, she'll be better than Whoopi. In any event, the Tribune had a feature about Oscar snubs and sought input from readers. Feeling inspired, I submitted my two cents and they had the good sense to list me first. Seriously, I think that Oscar gets it wrong way more often than right, but I'm just one man...

Bloggin' in the Boneyard to watch Academy Awards: As mentioned previously, I'll be doing a First Blush of the Oscar broadcast. There's no "Crash" in the bunch for me this year, so unfortunately, the odds of you getting to see me go crazy are slim. Well, I'll still have to endure all the damn songs. This year, that includes Melissa Ethridge. That's how far I'm willing to go, people.

Subliminal Dispatchism suddenly misses Tower Records: I should have known better, but while you can purchase Explosion in the Sky's new release (All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone) from Circuit City online, you can not actually get it in their stores - at least not the ones I visited. So the First Blush on that release will have to wait until it comes in the mail. Most likely two weeks given how things have been going lately. This better not happen when Neon Bible comes out in a few weeks!

The Warmth of Your Blog has a flat tire: Anyone got a patch kit? Maybe the rim shop on the first floor of my building can help.

OWR: United 93


76: Taut

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

OWR: Pan's Labyrinth


70: Stormy

Monday, February 19, 2007

OWR: The Queen


81: Deft

Schwarzenegger Sunday: Raw Deal

For an overview of Schwarzenegger Sunday, check out the Marching Orders to the right. Note – there will always be spoilers.

Arnold plays Mark Kaminsky, a former FBI officer who had been kicked out for being too abusive with an arrestee. We find him living as a small town sheriff in North Carolina, driving around in a jeep. FBI Chief Harry Shannon (Darren McGavin) has a son named Blair who works in the bureau and is murdered by mobsters. Displeased with the government’s efforts to obtain justice for the perpetrators, he secretly hires Kaminsky to infiltrate the mob, determine who was responsible for Blair’s death, and kill them. But first Kaminsky must fake his own death and take on an assumed identity, Joseph P. Brenner. He adeptly infiltrates, impressing the two leaders, Patrovita and Rocca. However, the gang eventually uncovers his ruse and sets him up to kill Shannon. Kaminsky recognizes Shannon at the last second and murders the other two assailants, but not before Shannon is shot several times. Kaminsky then goes on a rampage, killing all of the remaining mobsters as well as the crooked district attorney, played by Murphy Brown’s Joe Regalbuto. Finally, we learn that Kaminsky has gotten back with his wife and she is now pregnant. He is also able to coax Shannon into trying to walk again after his staunch desire to remain crippled. They embrace and the movie ends.

Plethora of “Ahnold” lines: First of all, Arnold’s accent is still extremely thick at this point in his career, so nearly everything that comes out of his mouth sounds like a goofy line. It’s wildly entertaining to hear him say anything. That said, I have to think that this movie is near the top of Arnold's oeuvre for “lines per minute.” Here’s a list of some of the ones I caught: “"Impersonating an officer, resisting arrest, fraud, reckless driving, lying to the sheriff." "Magic or Magnet?" "A guy who's probably going to be dead before it's out of warranty." "Winning improves your wardrobe." "Max, if you're the best there is, the wheel would've never been invented." "You see, in Miami, we can tell everything but the flow of the blow." "Nothing special, all these alleys probably have rats." "’Joseph P Brenner.’ ‘What's the P stand for?’ ‘Pussy!’" "I don't know why they advertise sleeping pills on television, I mean a couple of bottles of champagne - knocks you right out." "I hope you're not your mother's only child." "’I'll get you a nice 8x10.’ ‘Keep it, I'm not sentimental.’" "’How many people have you killed?’ ‘Three. You want names and addresses?’" "We're finished shopping." "Do you own a calendar, Max? I bet it's a Jewish holiday." "To do what an old friend asked me to do. Knock 'em dead!" "This must be what they mean by 'poetic justice.'" "Because of you, a lot of people are dead. And now it's your turn." "Resign or be prosecuted. Any way you want it.” 7
Quality of “Ahnold” lines: As you can see above, it’s all rather awful. None of these lines are either good or able to stand on their own. However, he does have one repeatable one. After arriving home to find his wife intoxicated and finishing up a cake. Angry, she hurls the cake in his direction which leads to Kaminsky stating, “You should not drink and bake.” But generally, the script is a piece of garbage with little worth mentioning. 2

“I’ll be back.”: Kaminsky does say, “I’ll be right back” at a key point near the end of the movie, but that does not count so it’s n/a
Smarmy Villain: Patrovita is played by Sam Wanamaker and comes across more as a hothead than a sinister scoundrel. You definitely have to wonder if he really would have been able to rise to the top of the Chicago crime syndicate if he has such trouble keeping his temper in check. His right hand man, Rocca, is maybe a bit smarmier, but actually seems like kind of a nice guy. Patrovia’s evil enough, he just doesn’t have the panache we expect from Arnold’s adversaries. 3

Rough and Tumble Henchman: Robert Davi is one of the all-time great rough and tumble character actors. You may remember him from such films as Die Hard, The Goonies, or License to Kill. This is not his greatest performance, but he fits our criteria perfectly. 9

Diminutive Sidekick: Kaminsky has no sidekick, but does work with Shannon throughout his mission. Darren McGavin is clearly way too good an actor to be in this film. He has a number of emotional scenes which seem a bit weird considering all the fluff surrounding him. I have no idea how tall he is, which is a good thing since he’s not a true sidekick anyway. n/a
Rejected hot love interest: Kaminsky’s wife, Amy, is played by Blanche Baker who’s best known as Molly Ringwald’s older sister set to marry the oily bohunk in Sixteen Candles. She’s not gorgeous, but definitely attractive. It doesn’t help her cause that she is loaded in her only scene. She certainly appears to be rejected as Kaminsky first fakes his own death and then doesn’t appear to give her much thought. But in the end, he comes back to her and they’re going to have a baby! 4
Not nearly hot enough love interest: Kathryn Harrold plays “Monique”, although I don’t believe her name is ever actually mentioned in the movie. Her role in the story is confusing to say the least. She’s either working with the mob to try to get info on Kaminsky, or she’s actually falling in love with him. And he’s either using her to help validate his cover, or he’s somewhat interested, but can’t actually get physical because of his wife. Clearly they felt they needed a woman in the story, but had no idea what to do with her, but at least the scene where they share three bottles of champagne in her apartment delivers hilarious unintentional comedy. 4

Arnold yelling: Near the end of the movie, Kaminsky blasts the Rolling Stones as he attacks a construction site that has some sort of ties to the mob. After jumping from his car just before it is smashed by heavy construction equipment, he lets out a “Yiahh.” 3

Arnold cursing: The script is full of cursing, but I don’t believe Kaminsky lets even one out. This is shocking. One has to wonder if his role is to somehow be such a good guy that he’s above swearing. n/a

Arnold crazyface: It’s brief, but during the alleyway fight scene, we get this beauty: 7

Superfluous Explosions: They come and go here. The fake death scene goes boom:
And the scene where Lamanski is taken out has one of those, car drives through warehouse, car leaves warehouse, car runs directly into randomly parked fuel truck:
On the whole, we get a hell of a lot of superfluous gunfire, but nothing special with the explosions. 3

Director: John Irvin is best known for helming Hamburger Hill. None of his movies are very highly rated, and he never worked with Arnold again. However, Dino Delaurentiis was an executive producer on this one, and he produced both Conan movies.

Franco Columbu: n/a

Sven Ole-Thorsen: We go nearly the whole way before we get a glimpse of Sven. He turns up in the final shootout massacre as “Patrovita’s Bearded Bodyguard”. See for yourself: 8

Shirtless Arnold: Kaminsky spends most of the movie wearing clothes. A lot of different clothes. A lot of different really awful clothes. This is no fashion fiesta. Check this stuff out:
For shirtlessness, in the champagne scene, Monique manages to unbutton his shirt and take a good look at him, exclaiming, “Oh… My… God.” Then, just to make sure you’ve had enough, there’s a totally unnecessary scene near the end of the movie where Kaminsky towels off after a shower. 8

Severely brutal killing of rough and tumble henchman: Max is dispatched with a simple gunshot in an abrupt cemetery scene. It’s not brutal at all. 1

Even more severely brutal killing of villain: Kaminksy shoots the hell out of Rocca, riddling him with bullets. He then shoots Patrovita in the back as he is running to his office to call the police. Things don’t seem so brutal, but in order to, well, I don’t have the first clue why he does this, but Kaminsky pours a bowl of candy onto the back of Patrovita. This would have been a good time for him to say, “Now you can taste sweet death,” or something equally ridiculous. 3

Plausibly implausible plot: Actually, the plot here is really not that farfetched compared to most Schwarzenegger films. The faking of his own death seems a bit off, and the Monique character makes no damn sense most of the time, but there’s not a ton here I would say is unbelievable. The most ridiculous thing in the movie is the fact that in the final shootout, bullets hit the disco lights resulting in them being turned on. Even though it's not too farfetched, I don’t know that we believe any of this is real. 2

Ambiguous ending: Everything is tied up when we’re done. All the bad guys are dead, Kaminksy is back with his wife who no longer drinks and bakes (we can only assume this, since she’s preggers and all). Chief Shannon is going to walk again. Kaminsky will not gain an improved fashion sense. There’s really nothing left to be resolved. 1

This was one of the few Schwarzenegger films I had not seen before beginning this project, and after viewing it, I can see why. It’s terrible. There is a lot to appreciate, especially involving Arnold. His accent is ridiculous in this one, particularly on his last line to Shannon: “Did yeu evah quit in fruhnt uv Blaiuh?” When he walks or runs, he’s still so gigantic that he resembles a robot. Kaminksy is constantly smoking cigars. I think he goes through about a dozen of them. The music is absolutely horrendous – there is bad country, glam rock, and some sort of funky, jazzy glam rock. And to top it all off, there’s an extremely wooden homage to Casablanca where Kaminsky sends Monique off on a plane and calls her “Sweetheart.” I can’t recommend this movie to anyone unless you are hoping to have a good laugh at its expense. However, after making this clunker, Arnold really stepped it up with Predator, The Running Man, Red Heat, Twins, and Total Recall. So maybe he learned from the mistakes he made in this one.

All the Schwarzenegger Sundays:
Predator
The Terminator
The Running Man
True Lies
Twins
Pumping Iron
Commando
Conan The Barbarian
Total Recall
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Last Action Hero
Roundup, Part I
Roundup, Part II
The George W. Bush Administration


Friday, February 16, 2007

OWR: An Inconvenient Truth


79: Cogent

Thursday, February 15, 2007

OWR: Cars


35: Vacuous

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

OWR: Water


53: Low

Monday, February 12, 2007

OWR: Jesus Camp


38: Condemny

Sunday, February 11, 2007

OWR: Oscar Countdown


The Oscars are February 25th. In celebration of the glorious award show which always seems to get everything wrong, but somehow captivates us in the process, the One Word Reviews for the next two weeks will only be for movies nominated this year. We've already got the OWR for The Departed, The Devil Wears Prada, and Little Miss Sunshine. You'll also get one per day for the next two weeks. Lucky you!

Friday, February 9, 2007

OWR: Napoleon Dynamite


65: Lucky

Thursday, February 8, 2007

First Blush: Bloc Party - A Weekend in the City

Bloc Party’s debut CD, Silent Alarm, took the indie rawk work by storm. You’ve heard it, and you either like it or love it. It's a bright, politically-minded, exciting piece of work. Their new album came out yesterday, and I just picked it up ($7.99 at Circuit City this week if you’re looking for a deal). I’ve heard none of the new tracks so far, so this is really my first experience with the album. But hey, enough of my yakkin’; whaddya say? Let’s boogie!

Track 1 – Song for Clay (Disappear Here)
0:10 such a sweet little opening. Kele Okereke is falsettoing it up with a few chords and synth strings.
1:03 Drums, drums, drums!
1:08 Now we’re talkin’. It’s like a heavy Falco!
2:20 This is a kickin’ chorus. I can’t tell what Okereke is saying. Awhwaahh awhaahhh. It sounds like the dying giraffe call from the South Park Movie. Also, I think throwing the word “freeway” into any chorus is an inherently great idea.
3:44 “East London is a vampire, it sucks the joy right out of me!” I’m gonna have to hear this again to get that one.
4:21 Coming off the chorus, we get Falco again with “Disappear Here” repeated. Well, this track is awesome. It’s very Interpol-esque, and driving.

Almost on queue, between tracks, Landon Donovan just scored a sick goal vs Mexico. I had to pause the CD. Sorry. I’m already messing up the initial First Blush of my blogging career. I have turned off the TV now.

Track 2 – Hunting for Witches
0:01 A little, well, scratching? It’s like Squarepusher, but not any good.
0:35 I think their remix album got to them a bit. This is a silly opening
1:15 It’s a bit spooky, but sinister enough that it has an edge as Okereke croons “Are they hunting for witches?”
2:00 Lots of electro strings on this one. They’re sounding a bit too poppy
2:29 Now we’re gunning for a movie soundtrack.
3:25 More Squarepsuhery stuff. I’m not impressed with Track 2.

Track 3 – Waiting for the 7.18
0:01 – Feels obliquely like “This Modern Love” at the outset. I’m smellin’ what you’re steppin’ in. Tell me more!
1:03 – Like M83 with a hard beat. Matt Tong is kickin’ it fast here. (M83 remixed The Pioneers on the Silent Alarm remix album, maybe there was some ruboff.)
1:46 “Spending all your spare time, trying to escape with crosswords and sudoku.” Um, not sure what this one is about, but I am curious to see how the hell that fits into anything.
2:13 I’m digging these choruses
2:34 Takin’ it up a notch! (“Let’s try to write him on the weekend”)
3:34 Just noticed that my case is already broken. You know the peg that holds the disc in place? It’s busted. I want my eight bucks back…
4:07 Birdies tweet! Great chorus, boring verses.

Track 4 – The Prayer
0:01 Boom-thwack! boom-thwack-boom-thwack! boom-thwack-boom-thwack!
0:11 Something must be yummy: “Mmmmmm….”
0:43 Speedy beats. This is pretty much techno. I don’t know if they played a guitar on this song.
1:56 “Is it so wrong to crave recognition?” Um, you guys have been plenty recognized. But now of course, I’m just being an internet bloggy jerk guy. I think the kids call that ‘snarky’.
2:20 “Tonight make be unstoppable and I will charm, I will slice, I will dazzle them with my wit.” That’s a fun line. I think I’ve said that to myself before. Pretty sure that prayer went unanswered…
2:54 Video Game Guitar Solo! (brief one)
3:16 This song has potential. It’s going to take a few more listens. Never found out what tasted so good…

Track 5 - Uniform
0:22 Life at Sea-esque (yes, that’s my brother’s old band – they’re playing Darkoom tonight. See you there!)
1:04 This appears to be the slow-builder on the album (the Summertime Rolls if you will). They’re taking their time with this one.
2:03 Maybe it’s just their mellow one? We’ll find out in a few seconds.
2:28 Well, it got faster, but not louder. I want it louder!
2:48 “I could have been a hero! No one can be trusted under the age of 14.” Lots of random voices popping in and out here.
3:25 One loud crunch
3:30 Got three lound crunches
3:42 Gettin’ louder
3:48 Yah!
4:08 “I am a martyr, I just need a motive.”
4:30 More yah! With some wailing guitar!
5:01 I can’t tell how good this one is. Maybe they fooled me, but I like where it went.

Track 6 - On
0:40 Kind of nothing a this point still. Vocals with just some sound behind it (kind of like the opening to track 1)
1:25 Still waiting for something to happen here. “You make my tongue loose. I am home free.”
1:52 This track is called “On”. So far, this is the one where they’re the most off (zing!). It’s just kind of going. The vocals are featured which is a bad idea for Bloc Party. Not that Okereke can’t sing, but they’re not playing to their strengths on this one.
3:12 Nothing new to report
3:39 Started to get going, but all we really added was more strings. We’re still making Okereke’s tongue loose.
4:19 Remember how I mentioned a movie soundtrack earlier? This one will end up in a movie at some point. You’d need some other action going on. I’m merely sitting here.

Track 7 – Where is Home?
0:09 “After the funeral… we sit and reminisce about the past.” All vocals here so far. But I think we’re about to rawk. Please?
1:03 Getting some drums involved. Who’s next?
1:38 “Clinging to her bible and her scapula, and the memory of the way things were…” Good one.
2:08 Some cool dueling melodies on the guitars in the background now. This song is getting darker. That’s where it had to go.
3:27 The band is hitting its stride now – all kinds of action going on from each side of the stereo.

Track 8 – Kreuzberg
0:30 This sounds promising. All guitar and kick drum right now.
1:23 Not rawkin, but we have a good rich sound flowing over us.
3:05 It’s almost too slick now, but I feel like it’s working, even if it may be too poppy for me.
3:35 Oozin’ oohs…
4:45 It’s almost like they’re trying too hard here? I just don’t have a good handle on this one. It’s either cheesy and terrible or passionate and meaningful. Or somewhere in between.

Track 9 – I Still Remember
0:13 Pushing forward again
1:22 Richest sound of the album so far – lots of vocals in the background with a driving beat and guitars workin’ it out.
2:23 This one definitely compares to “Blue Light”. They’re not the same, but there’s a certain connection there.
2:59 “I should’ve kissed you, but I wouldn’t.” Ah, the age old lament. We’ve all heard that one. Wait a sec, that doesn’t make any damn sense!
3:24 “I’d’ve loved you, if you’d asked me.” That was soooo me. Back in my teens, 20s and 30s.
4:13 So this is Bloc Party’s love song. I guess.

Track 10 – Sunday
0:10 Welcome back, tom-toms! We have sorely missed you.
1:10 “I love you in the morning. When you’re still hung over. I love you in the morning. When you’re still strung out.” I’m not sure what this has to do with politics, but I’m guessing it’s about Tony Blair, not Condoleezza Rice.
3:15 Okereke is trying to sound as sweet as can be. He’s actually pulling it off, kind of.
3:37 First real guitar solo, and it’s a little too Eric Johnson-y, but it’s not bad, and fits the song anyway.
4:13 Layers upon layers

Track 11 – SRXT
0:01 Some sounds from a subway? Street? Elevator? Store? Somethin’. Probably the subway.
1:30 Strings coming in. Bells, too.
2:35 Now we get the snare drum and it’s pushing the song along a bit
3:01 SOUND! We’ve been waiting all album for this! Lots of choir vocals and strings and guitar and drums and everything. Thanks for showing up, kids.
4:01 Time to wrap things up “Walkin’ in the countryside, it seems that he winds have stopped. Tell my mother I am sorry and I loved her.”

Initial gut reactions? There’s definitely no “Banquet” on this album, and possibly no “Like Eating Glass” either. But at first blush, the songs are pretty good. There is a whole lotta love being mentioned, particularly on the second half of the album. It seemed like the energy of Silent Alarm is somewhat missing from this one, and that’s a shame. I feel like the energy is what made their first release so good. Perhaps with all their success, they have lost their edge. I thought they were at their best when trying to make a political statement. It’s way possible that I was anticipating more in the same vein, but they have gone a new direction that will take some more time to get. Some of the songs have a lot of potential, and I am looking forward to future listens. Thumbs up so far. Go buy it while it’s cheap.

Join us in two weeks for All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Dashboard Professional

I'm busy as hell today, so don't expect much from me. However, I recommend heading over to Modest Mouse's website and checking out their new single, "Dashboard." It will play on repeat if you simply go there. You will listen again and again, and you will love it. Their album doesn't come out until March 20th, so this is really just a tease, but a worthwhile one...

Monday, February 5, 2007

OWR: American Splendor


90: Exceptional

Schwarzenegger Sunday: The Terminator

First of all, let me apologize for being late. Consider this the very first Schwarzenegger Monday. I haven’t received mail since last Wednesday and I’m beginning to think that I have done something to offend my letter carrier. Consequently, Raw Deal will have to wait until next time as I still have not received it. You’d think in an election year, Daley would make damn sure everything is working like a well-oiled machine here in Chicago. Er – was that a poor choice of words? Anyway, I snagged a working copy of The Terminator, so come with me if you want to live…

For an overview of Schwarzenegger Sunday, check out the Marching Orders to the right. Note – there will always be spoilers.

While Conan may be the role that put Schwarzenegger on the map, this is the one that made him famous. We immediately learn that “some time in the future,” after a nuclear war wipes out nearly all of humanity, machines take over the earth, attempting to complete the annihilation. Humans have fought back under the leadership and heroics of John Connor. To quell the revolution before it begins, the machines send back an assassin to kill Connor’s mother, Sarah (Linda Hamilton). That assassin, played by Arnold, is a cyborg called Cyberdyne Systems Model 101, aka The Terminator. The humans send a soldier back to aid Sarah in Reese (Michael Biehn). The Terminator kills a lot of people, but Sarah is saved. Reese is also killed, but not before he is able to impregnate Sarah with the boy who will grow up to be the man who will send him to his demise.

Quality of “Ahnold” lines: Since the Terminator is a cyborg, he’s not exactly into banter. However, Arnold’s accent is still pretty thick at this point, many of his lines stick out. Here are a few highlights: Upon meeting the punks at the start of the film, “Your clothes… give them to me.” In the gun shop, the shopkeeper says, “You can’t do that!” Arnold’s response is “Wrong.” When he climbs up onto the semi, he simply says, “Get out.” 7

Plethora of “Ahnold” lines: Again, not many here. And it’s not like the other characters picked up the slack, although Lance Henriksen has some quality back and forth with Paul Winfield. 2

“I’ll be back.”:
This is the one that started the category. When first seeing the film, you know something big is coming. You don’t expect it to be this:
The Terminator delivers this line with a deadpan style, but it’s an awfully determined deadpan. 10
Smarmy Villain: The smarmiest guy in the movie is Earl Boen as Dr. Peter Silberman. However, he’s far more buffoonish than smarmy, and more comic relief than villain. n/a

Rough and Tumble Henchman: You can’t get more rough and tumble than the Terminator. And I suppose you could argue that he’s a henchman for the machines, but again, this doesn’t really apply. n/a

Diminutive Sidekick: The only person who intentionally assists the Terminator is the gun shop owner, played by Dick Miller who’s listed at 5’5”. But he’s hardly a sidekick. n/a
Rejected hot love interest: Ginger is played by Bess Motta, who at the time was dubbed the “Aerobics Queen”. She’s Sarah Connor’s roommate who is permanently attached to her headphones. The Terminator dispatches her quickly to focus his main attention on Sarah. Yes, I realize I’m reaching here. Plus, she’s really not much hotter than Hamilton. n/a

Not nearly hot enough love interest: Linda Hamilton is pretty enough, but not a stunning beauty, either (nor is she made up to be so in this movie). Of course, Terminators don’t “feel pity, or remorse, or fear.” And they certainly don’t feel love or lust, despite whatever fixation exsists. n/a

Arnold yelling: Sadly, n/a

Arnold cursing: Arnold drops a great one as he is tending to his wounds. A janitor asks, “You got a dead cat in there, or what?” From a list of possible response, the Terminator chooses the following: “Fuck you, Asshole.” However, Sarah is able to trump him with a superb end line: “You’re terminated, fucker!” 9

Arnold crazyface: Again, he’s a cyborg. They don’t exactly make faces. This is the best I could do, and it’s with a lot of makeup. 2

Superfluous Explosions: Despite all the laser fights shown in Reese’s flashbacks from the future, it appears we’re going to avoid any kind of major explosions until the very end of the picture when Reese manages to put some homemade plastique in the tail pipe of a gas truck. They do blow the thing up on film not just once, nor twice, but three full times. 5

Director: James Cameron teamed up with Arnold again on Terminator 2: Judgment Day and a final time on True Lies. Cameron claims he nearly starved to death after he was twice fired from Piranha 2 and the entire production had to wait until Arnold became free of his Conan commitments to make this film.

Franco Columbu: He shows up in a future-flashback as a Terminator that infiltrates the human shelter. 8
Sven Ole-Thorsen: n/a

Shirtless Arnold: Arnold goes well beyond shirtless when he first arrives in the picture, showing up totally nude before he can acquire clothing. He then wanders around in the moonlight, flexing. 8

Severely brutal killing of rough and tumble henchman: The most severe killing in the movie is probably when Brian Thompson, playing Punk #2, has his heart ripped out of his chest at the top of the movie. n/a
Even more severely brutal killing of villain: The Terminator is crushed in what can only be described as a hydraulic smashing machine. Not that brutal, especially since it’s metal on metal violence at this point. n/a

Implausibly plausible plot: I condensed things as much as I could in the intro paragraph, and I’m not going to try to rehash them all now. There’s a lot to buy into here. However, somehow Cameron makes us believe it all. I think the key to the whole thing is Reese. More on this in a minute. 10

Ambiguous ending: We get a clean resolution to this little part of the story, but so much remains unanswered. All we know is that Sarah Connor is driving off into a matte painting somewhere in Mexico. Two sequels later, we still don’t know how it’s all going to play out. While there are unanswered questions, the ending still feels like a conclusion. 8

Given the small budget, this is an extremely well-crafted movie. Michael Biehn is absolutely superb as Reese. The only way this movie comes off is if he nails his part and he did. Linda Hamilton is equally up to the task. A lot of what we do here on Schwarzenegger Sunday is compromised by the fact that Arnold is playing a villain, and a fully automated one at that. After this movie, he vowed never to play a villain again – a pledge he lived up to until Batman and Robin (I pray that there will not be time enough to review that one!). So perhaps the criteria don’t really fit, which is why you see liberties taken and a glut of “n/a’s.” Overall, the movie is ingenious and ridiculously re-watchable, and it paved the way for the successful careers of both James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

All the Schwarzenegger Sundays:
Predator
Raw Deal
The Running Man
True Lies
Twins
Pumping Iron
Commando
Conan The Barbarian
Total Recall
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Last Action Hero
Roundup, Part I
Roundup, Part II
The George W. Bush Administration

Pinebender w/ Retribution Gospel Choir and Artsy Golfer at the Empty Bottle

I have been to a lot of shows over the years. Hundreds and hundreds. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band that played as loud as Pinebender did on Friday night. My goodness. For some silly reason, I did not wear earplugs for either of the opening acts, who were somewhat loud in their own right. Expecting a louder set from Pinebender, I popped them in, but everything sounded twice as loud from that point on anyway. I seriously thought the bricks might start falling off the walls. Their slow, fuzzy drone shook the building, and all three band members were clearly enjoying the hell out of themselves. I don’t know how they were doing this with just two guitars and a drum kit. Various members of the audience were air guitaring – I saw at least three which has to be some sort of Empty Bottle record. An air drummer was also spotted as well as some sort of near Riverdance hop-stepping. My only explanation for this is that the extended roar coming from the stage overpowered the audience and made some of them go a bit wacky. To be honest, I was kind of feeling it myself. It was almost like being on drugs. I missed a good deal of Artsy Golfer, but they sounded good. Retribution Gospel Choir’s sound was kind of all over the place. I don’t know if they’re trying to find themselves or that’s what they’re going for. Either way, it worked. They sang a lot of harmonies and all were pretty much on point. I don’t know much about them beyond some sort of Low affiliation, but I’d be up for checking them out again. The thing I’ll always remember about the night was Pinebender’s power and the fact that all three of ‘em will surely be deaf by age 40.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Bear Down Chicago Bears

That's right. Crown their asses!

OWR: Crash


28: Inane

Thursday, February 1, 2007

I've had enough of these damn horror movies


You’ve no doubt seen the commercial with Zachary Knighton tied between what is presumably the cab and payload of a semi. The ad abruptly ends as the cab starts to move forward, his girlfriend shrieks, and he screams, “I don’t want to die!” The first urge upon viewing this is to debate whether this would actually kill a person. I’m guessing his thumbs would be stripped off well before any internal organs received any severe damage. But that is beside the point. This is a remake of a successful and seemingly well-liked movie from 1986. That version, featuring C. Thomas Howell, Rutger Hauer and Jennifer Jason Leigh ended up with a domestic gross roughly equal to its budget and is cruising along with a 7.0 rating on the IMDB. The new version comes in at a 5.0, a number that is only likely to drop (as all IMDB ratings do for brand new movies). This past weekend, the remake of The Hitcher made 3.6 million dollars, bringing its two-week total to 13.4 million. And while I have no idea what the budget was for this movie, I would have to assume that it is somewhere in the $20-30 MM range, meaning that the generated revenue is not likely to match the costs. The “budget” figure does not include advertising expense which, in this case, had to be sizable. I don’t watch much TV, but I must have seen over fifty commercials for this movie. Based on audience response, critical review, and any other reasonable measure, this film is garbage. So why am I picking on it? Because it’s a prime example of the crap we have to continually deal with in our nation’s movie theaters and during our nation’s commercial breaks.

If you’re expecting me to make an impassioned “In Defense Of: Silence of the Lambs”, you’re not going to get it here. Yes, that is arguably the greatest horror movie of all time. Sometimes I begin to tell myself that it’s simply an excellent thriller that happens to be extremely scary. But then I remember a head in formaldehyde, Hannibal Lecter wearing other people’s faces, and Anthony Heald’s lecherous warden. It definitely goes beyond the thriller genre and into horror. As perfect as that movie is, the spate of horror films we get now are appallingly awful. But the genesis of the current run of these films is not Silence of the Lambs. This all began with Scream. And honestly, I have to blame myself a bit. When I was in college, my housemate was doing an internship for Miramax, promoting films on campus. This included work for Dimension Films, the subsidiary company that produced Scream. My friend was in a minor car accident in Canada and could not make it back in time for her scheduled Scream promotion, so another housemate and I took care of it for her. All we knew about this movie was what we had gleaned from the trailer which consisted of the Drew Barrymore scene at the beginning of the film. Based on the information we’d received, we were certain that the movie was terrible, but followed through with the promotion anyway, smirking ever so slightly as we urged our fellow students to see the movie. Little did we know that it would go on to become Dimension’s biggest hit ever, grossing over $160 MM worldwide. The thing is, Scream was a joke. It was meant to nail shut the coffin on a genre which was dead at that point anyway. Wes Craven directed it, claiming it would be his last horror movie ever. He was all set to get going on Music of the Heart, you see. So rather than defend Silence of the Lambs, perhaps I should be here to condemn Scream. But again, proliferation was not Scream’s intent, regardless of its own abysmal sequels.

One could argue that following 9/11 and the continual carnage we see from Iraq, people feel connected to violence and want to experience it as fantasy in their movies. There probably is something to that. As violence escalates in real life, we see it escalate in fantasy life as well. Perhaps if people feel that violence is fantastical, they don’t really have to deal with what they’re seeing on the news. The president talks about the sacrifice people endure by having to watch violence on the news, but if they can convince themselves that it’s not actually real, wouldn’t that make things that much easier? Perhaps if they can see a different monster batter and bloody helpless victims each week, they don’t feel as connected to what’s really happening in the world. So movie studios think that we’re either too connected to violence or not connected enough, but they’re damn well going to exploit that feeling, either way. They’re even trying to convince you that crocodile adventure movies are horror flicks these days (as if casting Orlando Jones wasn’t scary enough).

Look, I’m not naïve. I realize that these movies are cheap to produce and they’re largely selling them to teenagers who are hoping to escape from their angst-filled existences. But I’m sick of my TV turning into a howling strobe light every time I try to watch a basketball game. Really, I wouldn’t care if they made twice as many dumb horror movies, as long as they wouldn’t try to get me to watch them. I’m not going to. And not because I’m frightened of the terror they bring, but because they’re obviously horrendous. I’m not even going to get into the whole “what about the kids” thing. If I were a kid trying to watch the NFC championship game and one of these ads came on, I would probably go hide in the closet. But since I don’t have any kids, I’m merely offended by the lack of taste and artistic merit. America must be ready for a new trend in low-quality, low-budget movies. Can we get a Porky’s remake or something? Actually, please forget I said that.